ANTIOCH -- Voters here made it resoundingly clear Tuesday that they want more police on the streets and are willing to pay a little extra for it, approving a half-cent sales tax hike Tuesday.

With all precincts reporting, almost 68 percent of the 10,083 tallied votes favored Measure C.

Starting April 1, Antioch shoppers will pay an extra nickel for every $10 spent for the next seven years, as the sales tax rate will rise to 9 cents per dollar.

"This is the result of the community coming together," Antioch Mayor Wade Harper said earlier Tuesday night, as early returns from absentee votes had the measure at about 70 percent passing.

"There were a lot of people that voted for it absentee, right up front. They didn't want to take any chances," said Martha Parsons, one of the main organizers from the Yes on C campaign.

Harper, Parsons and other Measure C supporters expressed their excitement and optimism about the prospects of improving the city's public safety.

"This is the turning point. The start of moving forward and turning the community around," said school board president Joy Motts.

"This had to happen," added Sean Wright, Chief Executive Officer of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, who opposed a similar sales tax ballot measure in 2010.

Wright pointed out that the city must be fiscally responsible during the life of the tax, so city leaders don't come back to the voters.


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The $4.7 million Antioch estimates it will receive from Measure C would go to the city's general fund, where it could be used for any legal municipal purpose -- including police, code enforcement, economic development, fixing potholes, senior and youth services and other programs.

City leaders again indicated Tuesday night at a pro-Measure C results viewing party that the money's focus would be on lowering crime and cleaning up blighted properties.

The primary argument of opponents of the sales tax was the money is not dedicated solely to public safety and could the council be trusted to not use the money for other projects.

A seven-member citizens oversight committee, which will be appointed by the City Council, and an annual audit are among Measure C's provisions to keep tabs on how the money would be spent.

Antioch leaders called for the special off-year election earlier this summer by declaring the city was in a "fiscal emergency," paying $204,000 to bring the matter to the voters.

City staffing is roughly 60 percent of where it was in 2008 while its offices remain closed on Fridays. The number of sworn police is down from 126 officers five years ago to 85 now.

Meanwhile, public safety concerns in Antioch have escalated. Violent crime increased 30.6 percent in 2012, compared with the year before, while property crime jumped 22.8 percent. Service calls go unanswered longer, arrests are down and there are dozens of code enforcement calls per week that go without response.

For updates, check back to ContraCostaTimes.com.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.